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Applying Influencing and Persuading Skills to the Dynamics and Politics of Personal Interactions

February 17, 2014

Influencing and persuading methodologies to gain the commitment of individuals to a course of actions

Power and influence

Power is the ability to get someone to do something you want to be done; influence is a behavioural response to the exercise of this power.

Common responses when using power are:

  • Resistance: resisting the request without apparent cause or in an arrogant manner, most likely response to coercive power.
  • Compliance: complying with the request by meeting minimal expectations while withholding extra effort, most likely response to legitimate and rewarding powers.
  • Commitment: enthusiastic release of energy and talent to satisfy the leader’s request, most likely response to referent and expert powers.

To influence people you can use techniques like:

  • Reasoning
  • Friendliness
  • Coalition building
  • Bargaining
  • Assertiveness
  • Claiming higher authority
  • Sanctions

Organizational politics

Organizational politics are internal behaviours to enhance or protect a person’s self-interest and influence.

It serves a number of important functions like:

  • an art of creative compromising when there are competing interest
  • overcoming personal inadequacies
  • substitute for formal  authority

Tactics in gaining political power

Some tactics to gain this political power:

  • Alliances: two or more persons who join in a group to get benefits that they desire
  • Identification with a higher authority: gaining special privileges by becoming identified with a powerful figure in the organization
  • Selective service: giving service selectively to gain support, often by bending the rules
  • Power and status symbols: acquiring power and status symbols that imply that you are an important person in the firm
  • Social exchange: relies on the strong obligation to repay their social “debts” to each other
  • Power plays: aggressive tactic involving grabbing of power from others
  • Networking: joining or forming interest groups that have a common objective

Motivational tools

For people is work not just to make a living but also their social economic status compared against others.

To motivate people different instruments can be used to utilize this social economic status as a reward.

For example:

  • Raises technical skills, study
  • Formal recognition of abilities
  • Promotion or career growth
  • Monetary benefits, salary or pay-scale increase
  • Job security, immunity from companywide cost-cuttings or layoffs
  • Low-cost rewards, like bonus, time-off, and leisure packages etc.
  • Making the role and job more meaningful and important, creating value
  • Instigating a sense of achievement and pride

Commonly used theories about motivation people:

  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  • Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene
  • McClelland’s Acquired-Needs
  • McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow (1954) developed a hierarchy of needs to illustrate his theory that people’s behaviours are guided by a sequence of needs. He argued that humans possess unique qualities that enable them to make independent choices, so giving them control of their own destiny.


Figure 3: Maslow pyramid

At the bottom of the hierarchy are physiological needs.Once physiological needs are satisfied, safety needs guide behaviour.  Once safety needs are satisfied social needs come to the forefront, and so on.

Maslow suggests that each level of the hierarchy is a prerequisite of the levels above.  Eg. In an emergency situation, such as flood or hurricane, are not going to worry about personal growth.  Personal survival will be their main motivation.  Once a particular need is satisfied, however it no longer serves as a potent motivator of behaviour.

Notice that each layer in the pyramid is smaller than the previous layer.  The issues in each level are of greater value than tissues in the preceding level, which presumably have been satisfied.

The needs consisted of:

  • Biological and physiological needs
    includes hunger, thirst, shelter, sex and other bodily needs.
  • Safety needs
    includes security and protection from physical and emotional harm.
  • Belongingness and love needs (social needs)
    includes affection, belongingness, acceptance and friendship.
  • Esteem needs
    includes internal esteem and ego factors such as self-respect, autonomy and achievement; and external esteem factors such as status, recognition and attention.
  • Self-actualization needs
    represented by the drive to become what one is capable of becoming; includes growth, achieving one’s potential and self-fulfilment.

To motivate people, the manager needs to understand each person’s motivation, especially with regard to social, esteem, and self-actualization or growth needs.

Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene

Herzberg (Herzberg, Mausner, & Bloch Snyderman, 1993)explained why attempts to use positive factors such as reducing time spent at work, upward spiralling wages, offering fringe benefits, providing human relations and sensitivity training, and so on did not instil motivation.  He argued that people want to actualize themselves.  They need stimuli for their growth and advancement needs in accordance with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Motivation factors: achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, advancement, and growth, which produce job satisfaction.

Hygiene factors: cause dissatisfaction if not present, but do not motivate workers to do more.  Examples include larger salaries, more supervision, and a more attractive work environment.

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

McGregor’s (1960)Theory X and Theory Yissuggesting that there are two aspects of human behaviour at work, or in otherwords, two different views of individuals (employees).

Theory X: assumes workers dislike and avoid work, so managers must use coercion, threats and various control schemes to get workers to meet objectives, presents a pessimistic view of employees’ nature and behaviour at work.

Theory Y: assumes individuals consider work as natural as play or rest and enjoy the satisfaction of esteem and self-actualization needs, presents an optimistic view of the employees’ nature and behaviour at work.

How and what do I use (parts) of these methodologies in my daily work

In my daily work I use different persuading skills and treat people different based on their role and position.

For all the people I work with I make a kind of ‘stakeholder analysis’ what helps me to determine what their role and position is.

In my team I normally have the ‘father’ function as the team/project leader, help them with their problems, listen, ‘punish when they do something wrong’, etc .

I set the boundaries, but let the team members set the (individual/team) goals in consultation (within the overall set goals). I use their drive to come higher in the social hierarchy because of their knowledge and achievements to ‘stretch’ their comfort zone and give just that bit more.  This helps them to boost their performance because it is something they wanted and not something I dictated.

When there is a problem I help them to solve it. I am not solving it by doing it for them, but help them to determine the steps to get out of it, or if needed, give them the extra help in f.e. ‘hands’.

‘Juniors’ will be teamed with more senior team member so they have the feeling that they are not left alone with their problems and the more senior member gets the feeling he can help somebody and his knowledge is recognised

When we reach a goal within the period we set I organize a kind of celebration. That can be something like cake when it is just a minor goal or a joint meal or evening out if we reached something big.

With other stakeholders, f.e. higher management (CEO) I use a different approach. I figure out what is the drive for this person to do this and uses this interest in my communication.  If I have to managers in a influencing level that have different opinions about a goal that is set for my team I will ‘play them’ in such a way that they need to agree on one joint goal in an overall meeting so that will be documented (but none of them has a ‘loss of face’ because I influenced them before).

The impact of individual dynamics, interests and organisational politics on securing the commitment of individuals to a course of action

Strategies for securing commitment of individuals are:

  • Education and communication
    Usable when there is a lack of information or inaccurate information and analysis by giving them the information they need you get their commitment
  • Participation and involvement
    Usable when the initiators do not have all the information they need to do the joband others have considerable power to resist. By making them a part of it, it is a more difficult to resist.
  • Facilitation and support
    Usable when people are resisting because of adjustment problems
  • Negotiation and agreement
    Usable when someone will clearly lose out and where that someone has considerable power to resist
  • Manipulation and co-optation
    Usable when other tactics will not work or are too expensive
  • Explicit and implicit coercion
    Usable when speed is essential and where the change initiators possess considerable power

Therefor if you need to secure commitment you need to check this ‘new solution’ with the ‘values’ people currently have and bring this forward in your proposals toward them.

What’s your best advice for applying influencing and persuading skills to the dynamics and politics of personal interactions?

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 Author: Rieco de Jong. All Rights Reserved by the author.
Image: © Yuri Arcus-

Source: Original Text (based upon first hand knowledge), based on the following bibliography:

· Armstrong, M., & Baron, A. (1998). Performance Management: the new realities. London: CIPD.

· Chartered Management Institute. (2012). Chartered Management Institute. Retrieved 2012, from Chartered Management Institute:

· Drucker, P. (1993). Managing for Results. New York: Collins. 

· Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Bloch Snyderman, B. (1993). The motivation to work. Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

·Hunter, D. (2013, April). Zenergy. Retrieved April 2013, from

· Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.
· McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.
· Slack, N., Chambers, S., & Johnson, R. (2001). Operations Management (3rd edition ed.). London: FT Prentice-Hall.

·Tannenbaum, R., & Schmidt, W. (1973, May-June). How to Choose a Leadership Pattern. Harvard Business Review, pp. 162-180.


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